Easter or Passover
It may seem like an unusual comparison, but when you look at the history of these two holidays the reasons for such a comparison become clear. Those who study the Bible with the understanding that it is the inspired Word of God realize that details matter, even ones that are generally accepted as being accurate.
A very good example of this has to do with the way tradition seems to become synonymous with the Holy Scripture. Christians are very familiar with the manger scenes that are customary during the Christmas season. We usually have the family of Jesus in a barn or “manger” as it’s described in Luke 2:4-7. In the traditional manger scene, we find the three wise men appearing to the family of Jesus and giving the new born King gifts. The problem with coupling these two events together is that the Magi arrived to see Jesus some time after his birth, Matt. 1:21-2:13. According to Matthew’s account, the Magi come later, just prior to Jesus and his the family fleeing to Egypt to avoid Herod’s murderous henchmen.
Then we have the manger scene itself. The translation of the word for “inn” being associated with a hotel type establishment is incorrect. The Greek term used here is more akin to a “guest room” than a wayfaring establishment that is correctly described in the story of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:34. In this parable, both the Greek words for inn and innkeeper are used. Neither of them are found in the accounts of the birth of the Messiah. The word translated “manger” in Luke 2:4-7 can be translated as “crib” or “stall,” so it is easy to see how the traditional manger scene might have evolved. In fact, Jesus used this same Greek word in Luke 22:11 that appears in the Christmas story. It is correctly translated as a “guest room” in the when describing the Upper Room. This would become the scene of the Last Supper, the Passover meal that Jesus ate with His disciples the night before His Crucifixion.
We need to understand why the Jewish holy day of Passover and the Christian holy day of Easter seem to dance around one another on the calendar. Sometimes, because the Jewish holy days are found on a lunar calendar and the Christian holy days are using the Roman calendar, they sometimes coincide falling on the exact same day. Because Passover and Easter are celebrating the same event (exemption from God’s judgment by the blood of the lamb as evidenced by His resurrection), they will sometimes fall on the exact same day.
How did Passover get supplanted by Easter in Christian tradition? That answer is not a mystery at all. After the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the gospel began to spread throughout the nation of Israel. While the apostles were having great success in reaching the lost sheep of the House of Israel, Acts 2:41, 3,000 saved, Acts 4:4, 5,000 saved, the vast majority of the Jewish people would not come to faith in Him, John 1:11. This was part of God’s grand plan to bring the gospel to the Gentiles, Rom. 11:25-32, the Apostles began to move the message of the gospel out of Israel. As the influence of the Apostles began to wane, church leaders began to embrace a very nasty lie about the Jewish people. Rather than understanding that the Messiah came to die, John 10:17-18, they began to blame the Jews for the death of Jesus.
This early form of anti-Semitism spread by the Church fathers made it easier to remove any connection between the Jewish people and their promised Messiah. Among the first and most virulent forms of anti-Semitism to come out of the early church leaders after the death of the Apostles was the claim that the Jews had killed Christ (Deicide). This can be traced back to the church father Origen who said, “The blood of Jesus falls not only on the Jews of that time, but on all generations of Jews up to the end of the world.” Using these and other statements about the Jews, Bible scribes justified the removal of the Greek word for Passover (Pascha) and inserted the word Easter in it’s place, Acts 12:14. This had the intended consequence of further removing Christians from their biblical roots in the Messiah, the Holy One of Israel.
Like the tradition of the manger scene, Easter has become associated with life and renewal offered in the risen Savior. When we are looking at the instruction of the Word of God for His children, we are told not to judge our fellow brothers and sisters with regard to what they eat or what holy days they observe, Rom.14:1-4. At the Creation Studies Institute, we endeavor to keep the bond of unity among all God’s children, Eph. 4:3. Do we stand upon the clear teaching of Scripture? Yes we do. Are we aware of the shortcomings of Christianity with regard to tradition versus the biblical record? Yes we are. Do we choose to be gracious when confronting matters where tradition might be at odds with God’s Word? Yes we do.
We desire that all God’s children would be Bereans. They were commended because they took the claims of Paul and compared them to the Word of God, Acts 17:11. During this time of rejoicing, let’s be gracious to all by proclaiming along with the Apostle Paul the great truth:
For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Corinthians 5:7b-8
As we enter into this Passover/Easter season, let’s remember that the gospel of the life, death, burial and resurrection from the dead of Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of God’s instruction concerning the Passover. Moses told the children of Israel, ‘So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance, Ex. 12:14.
This Passover is an everlasting holy day. It is a memorial. It is in memory of the one who died. Who died during that first Passover 3,500 years ago, an innocent lamb in the prime of its life, without spot of blemish, Ex.12:5. Who died 2,000 years ago to take away the sins of the world, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, John 1:29, 36.
Submitted by Pastor Steven Rowitt, PhD.